A decade ago, the Earth was struck by the Chelyabinsk asteroid over Russia’s Ural region. The asteroid exploded above the city and created a shockwave affecting 1500 people and destroying over 7300 buildings. It served to create fear, but more than that, it sent all the space agencies back to the drawing board to prepare contingency plans for such an event that may have far worse consequences. The fear of asteroid strike is always swings there as it had wiped out the dinosaurs from the face of Earth millions of years ago. Therefore, to study such potential Earth-striking asteroids and the impact they may have, the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space created two international bodies: the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG). These bodies will thoroughly study the risk of an asteroid strike and global response. Know more about these organizations here.
How to study asteroid strike and impact
The IAWN and SMPAG have completed 10 years of research in 2024. According to an ESA report, IAWN is led by NASA which specializes in observing and finding risky asteroids hurtling the space. IAWN then assesses the timing, location, and potential impact of the asteroid asteroids approaching Earth. Then it circulates the collected information to SMPAG and national governments “about the asteroid needed to plan a reactive space mission and for civil disaster preparation and response agencies,” said ESA.
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ESA leads SMPAG which brings together space agencies globally to coordinate Earth’s space-based response to threats. It further analyses how space missions can study, deflect or destroy asteroids with are 50 meters wide in size. Now, the biggest discussion among these bodies is about the asteroid “Apophis” which is said to be 350 meters wide and may fly by Earth on 13 April 2029. However, the asteroid does not pose any threat but a chance for organisations to study a “large asteroid up close with a satellite mission”
ESA will be launching the Hera mission in October 2024 to further gain insights into NASA’s successful DART mission demonstration on a kinetic impactor technique for deflecting asteroids. However, this can only be done once the asteroid is spotted and the Minor Planet Center is keeping close eyes on the Near-Earth objects.
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